Look at a Victorian home, and you'll likely be treated to a visual feast of color and detail. Colonial homes are on the flip side of that architectural coin, with few ornaments and color schemes that often rely on white to play up the geometry and proportion of the homes.
Many Colonial-style homes exhibit a soothing visual symmetry. Inside, you'll likely find a mirror-image setup from one side of the house to the other, particularly on the main level.
One of the hallmarks of Colonial home design is the regularity of its geometry. Most homes are squares or rectangles and have few flourishes.
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Centuries ago, the shutters that distinguished many Colonial-style homes were operable, used to seal out inclement weather. Today's Colonials might still make use of this design element -- even if they're just for show -- to establish a regular exterior facade.
When many Colonial homes were constructed, builders used local materials on hand. For the East Coast, that often meant wood, and clapboard siding became a regular feature on this home type.
Many historic house builders saved time and resources by creating a dormered half-story on the upper level, with a steeply pitched roof that enabled practical drainage and access to an attic space.
Many of the design influences of Colonial homes worked in tandem with one another. Precise geometry and symmetry precluded the random placement of details such as windows, leading to a style that typically featured a window on each side of the entry door, and three to five windows on the upper level, with one directly above the entry door.
Regional availability also influenced the design and construction of Colonial homes. As the style extended from the East Coast to the Southern states, brick began to make an appearance in these restrained home designs.
On par with stripped-down details in Colonial homes, landscapes lack conspicuous ornamentation. Many rely on geometric combinations of shrubs and trees as a restrained softscape accent.
Many Colonial houses, which are notable for their lack of interior flamboyance, rely on only token accents and embellishes for their exterior facades, too. Although this house is grand in terms of square footage, the single flourish is the arch atop the ground-level row of windows.
A reflection of their regular geometry as much as a practical layout choice, an on-center entry enabled many Colonial homeowners to place a stairway in the middle of the home, too, and a hallway that cut through the center of the upper level.
Unlike the wraparound, two-level porches common in many Victorian homes, Colonial structures typically had unostentatious entryways. Many relied on a no-frills covered portico to mark a front entry.
As with many other details on Colonial homes, chimneys are a reminder of the historic ties of this style. Many Colonial homes had double chimneys -- one on each end of the house. Inside, fireplaces are on every level of the home.
Colonial homes were influenced by the history and architecture of the colonists' home countries, and many of them were from Europe. Although Colonial-style homes are fairly understated, some do have columns, a detail that has its origins in Greek and Roman architecture and can be found in many of the grand buildings of Europe.
Look closely at many Colonial-style homes, and you can probably guess the floor plan of the interior. Many of these spaces were designed as four-over-four: Four rooms downstairs, four rooms upstairs. Respectful additions such as this home's sunroom increase square footage while maintaining the original design aesthetic.